How I gave my students voice and increased collaboration

When I first started teaching a decade ago, I would do anything to maintain control in my classroom. Rarely were students allowed to speak without raising their hand. All of the desks in my room faced forward, and I controlled all communication. Collaboration back then looked like the occasional “turn and talk” between desk partners, and sometimes we would have problem-solving partner days where students solved word problems together.

After a decade in the classroom, this year I took a role in my district as an elementary and middle school math instructional coach. Part of my job is going into a wide variety of classrooms between multiple different schools and grade levels. Each classroom I enter is different, but one thing is consistent—the best classrooms feature students collaborating in a variety of different ways. Additionally, the teachers in these classrooms have more of a role as coach, mentor, and guide than traditional “front of the room” practitioner.

Increasing collaboration in the classroom goes way beyond having students work together once in a while. Your job as a classroom teacher should be to create a culture in which teamwork is front and center in everything that you do. There are three types of collaboration in the classroom: between students, between yourself and students, and between the students and yourself.…Read More

How I give my students voice & choice

When I walked into my first college computer class in 1995, the room was filled with Macs, PCs, and loads of potential. I hadn’t been exposed to computers before that, and I thought to myself, “Wow. This is pretty neat, but it’s not my world.”

Fast-forward to 2018 and we’re now teaching students who were literally born with technology in their hands. They have technology at their avail and they always will.

Pro-digital since day one
At Shiloh Point Elementary in Georgia, our school has been pro-digital since day one and is one of the nation’s leaders in integrating tech into the learning experience. We know that these kids need choices and anonymity in a world where it’s all too easy to get lost in the shuffle. Using the word “ownership” as our battle cry, we work hard to ensure responsibility and independence among our students.…Read More

How teacher voice can improve professional development

One common faculty complaint of professional development is that it doesn’t lead to improvement. Four years ago that was certainly the way many educators felt here in the Farmington Public Schools in central Connecticut. Even though providing engaging professional development is a hard challenge, we were committed to finding ways to make PD more responsive and relevant. Hearing from our teachers that this was a pain point for them strengthened our resolve to act.

How did we know that so many educators felt overlooked by our professional learning efforts? In short, we asked them. At Farmington, we have collected feedback from students, families, teachers and staff using stakeholder surveys for many years. Our goal is to ask questions and gather data in ways that let us use stakeholder voice to influence and impact district work. As assistant superintendent, I regularly visit classrooms and participate in committees with students, faculty, and staff to better understand teaching and learning across the district. We are constantly looking for ways to strengthen partnerships among all stakeholder groups, and surveys are an invaluable source of information that has an influence on district practice.

For our PD survey, we used an online survey and data collection platform called Panorama Education to ask faculty to reflect on this statement: “The professional development I participated in this year helped me improve my practice.” Four years ago, the results showed that too many faculty did not feel like PD helped them improve.…Read More